I watched the two of them dance in the middle of the floor while guests of the ceremony stood motionless around. Some had tears in their eyes, but most had smiles — probably for the same reasons. I watched from beside the DJ booth as my father and sister finished their medley of motions, from slow, sentimental swaying to coordinated stomps and claps. And, I noticed — I mean really noticed and digested — how the lines on my father’s face began to show his age, how he was beginning to form the bags under his eyes that made him look more and more like his father. And, how one day I’ll do the same.
Time, when it’s ahead of us, seems infinite — a blank canvas of possibility that we can color how we see fit, and, maybe I’m still tapping into that perceived invincibility that my parents were so often referring to when I was a teenager, but in so many ways, it still seems that way. I still believe I’ll have the years to do whatever I want in this life because I’m still young (right?). “I’m only twenty-four,” I tell myself when think about what I’ve done, what is happening, and what has the potential to happen because, well, I’m still young. Sure, it’s all relative — we’ve all built up our own circumstances in our lives with more or less stability, with more or less responsibilities, that make us seem to fit (or not) in what’s perceived as the “proper” stage of life for our age. But, alongside my father, I saw my sister — just three years older than me.
My older sister with whom I’d grown up was now married and off to form a family of her own — and she’s just three years older than me. It’s difficult to process when it’s all digested at once, but that moment on the dance floor was the culmination of years. It had been happening, whether I realized it or not: everyone had grown up and was continuing to grow up. And, I was growing up too. Unfortunately, we remember our pasts like a photo album — a collection of 3x5’s connected by pages where the spaces in between are simply that. We rush to the next picture without realizing how much time it takes to get there, so, while time seems infinite moving forward, it always seems like we never had enough in reverse. And, maybe that’s why in that moment on the side of the stage, it hit me all at once in the form of a question that was something like, “Am I already here? Have I already spent this much of my time?”
Time doesn’t stop speeding up either. Hopefully, that’s because the bar for what qualifies as a significant event or a photo album 3x5 is constantly being raised by having kids, new career opportunities, etc., etc.. But, at the risk of being cliche, seeing my father and sister on that day, under those circumstances, was revelatory. So often we get stuck on auto-pilot, remembering the big days and forgetting the little ones that lead to them — forgetting the small moments that give life the subtleties it needs to be interesting and worth living. It’s hard, and it takes consistent meditation and reminding, but it’s necessary if we don’t want to find ourselves years down the road wondering where the time went. Be present. If we live today with the people we love (and show it), we’ll be just fine.
Everyone clapped once the dance was over, and after letting the other guests give their congratulations and compliments, I went up to give them my own. My sister was smiling with that belief in what the future held, as she sat next to her husband at the main table. My father still had a bit of sweat glistening on his forehead that he tried not to let me see but then blamed on the heat. I hugged him and held on a little longer than usual.